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Natural Gas Gets a Boost from the Solar Eclipse

Our backup energy is being put to the test...

Written by Megan Dailey
Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:47PM

Any space enthusiasts out there?

If you’ve read my bit on solar integration into the grid, you’ll know all about my friend who’s spent months using portable panels and is loving it so far! And he's nothing if not enthusastic about what's going on in space.

His next big venture is taking a trip to Oregon specifically to get the best view of the total solar eclipse taking place on August 21. It’s going to be an amazing sight for anyone standing in its path…

And it will be quite a big test for natural gas.

Solar farms across the country will be losing some major daylight as the moon crosses the sun’s path.

On one hand, it’s just business as usual for solar energy producers. The energy source is notoriously intermittent, since even the slightest cloud cover can reduce its efficiency.

However, the eclipse will be a unique opportunity to test just how well these solar farms fare with a predictable loss of power.

And, more importantly, it will test the energy infrastructure in place to cover demand when solar energy just isn't an option.

Areas along the lines below will see the biggest impact throughout the day:

Solar Eclipse 2017 Path Natural Gas Energy StorageHowever, the eclipse’s effects will be felt as far south as California on the west, and as far north as the Carolinas on the east.

So what does natural gas have to do with it?

Well, no matter how efficient solar panels become, we’re still going to need backup power for when the sun isn’t shining. And while energy storage will be a huge part of that in the future, natural gas will be picking up the slack until we’ve got more of it on deck.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewables will be supplying as much energy to the U.S. by 2040 as natural gas does today.

But it won’t get that far without the support of more reliable fuels.

The eclipse will be like a test run to see how well natural gas plants can cover the deficit when the sun’s rays just aren’t enough.

Bloomberg estimates that as much as 9,000 megawatts of solar energy may be lost to the eclipse, about the same energy output as 9 nuclear reactors.

With solar capacity growing by the day, we’re going to need a lot more backup for the safety of our energy future.

To continue reading about the eclipse's effect on U.S. energy, click here to read the Bloomberg article.

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